In it s15 years as a full fledged Ministry, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in March this year produced its 15th Minister, Arch. Musa Mohammed Sada. That means that the average staying period of a Minister in this Ministry is just about a year.
At its best, Sada would have to put in about 1 year and 3 months if all goes right for him before the coming of a new government in April, 2011.
The high turn-over rate of Ministers in this establishment, according to watchers of Nigerian mineral and metal sector, is largely responsible for the blurred focus of the mineral and steel sector, especially as it affects mining titles, the Ajoakuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and the Nigerian Iron Ore Compnay (NIOMCO), Itakpe.
In some instances, we have seen Ministers of the Ministry who looked rather dumbfounded with what role to play, and their sojourn on the helm of affairs was a complete waste of public fund and time though it is generally agreed that they were never dumb in getting at the â€œfilthy lucreâ€. And when they left, the stakeholders clicked glasses and hugged in celebration. Yet, there were a few, who have forever left their imprints by their remarkable positive contributions in the sectors. And for reasons that are never rational for watchers of these sectors, these Minister were always removed on the verge of implementing what was considered as productive plans for both the mineral and steel sector. And, of course everyone wept on their sack.
But, since this is not an attempt to score past Ministers, it suffice to add that Arc. Sada would be saddled with huge challenges. But they are not insurmountable. The good news for him is that some of them have been taken care of before his coming, as he must have found out by now.
Challenges before Arch. Sada:
Mineral sector – Non issuance of new Mining licences
So far not less 9,300 licenses have been processed by the Mining Cadastre office, but not a single new license has been issued in the past one and half years. The issuance of these licenses is of serious concern for lots of investors
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Engr. Sheik Goni in an exclusive chat with Sweet Crude last March, said that the immediate past Minister of the Ministry (Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, now Minister of Petroleum Resources) was going to convene a World Press Conference on the matter a week before the sack of the last cabinet. She was to have announced the issuance of new mining tittles, because everything had been concluded, he had said.
Both prospective small, medium and big time miners are worried that non issuance of these titles is slowing down their momentum for business as they cannot approach banks for facilities nor engaged partnership with foreign financiers.
Maiatined the status quo – NMA
Again, the Chairman of Nigerian Miners Association, Dr. Kola Ojo, in a telephone chat, told sweet crude that his Association would want Arch. Sada to maintain the status quo. He said that the Minister should ensure that the recently approved $80 million dollars grant by the World Bank for small and medium scale miners is not hijacked by Banks out of the hands of the Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project office. He said that if the grant is disbursed by Banks, stiff and rigid conditions would be set to make it impossible for would be beneficiaries.
Capacity building for the sectors
Again the idea of building capacity for the mineral sector is of paramount importance. Already two bills, namely: the National Metallurgical Training Centre, Onitsha and Nigerian Institute of Mining and GeoSciences, Jos, have been presented to the last Executive Council of the Federation for onward transmission to the National Assembly. It would now behoves on Arch. Sada to see that the bills arrive the National Assembly and gets a speedy passage. That is only if he appreciates the fact that the industry would be in serious dearth of indigenous skill hands should mining get the influx of expected investments in the next three years.
Push for mining regulation
Though, and happily too, there is already a law the Mines and Mineral Act, 2007 – and a Mining and Metal policy launched in 2008, the most desirous of them is still held up by undue bureaucracy. And that is the Mining Regulation. Stakeholders believe that without a clear Mining regulation, most blue chip mining firms will continue to be wary of taking risks to invest in Nigeria. It is therefore one of his main challenge to see that Nigerian mining regulation is out.
The Metal Sector – ASCL and NIOMCO
The story of these 31 year old babies that have refused to walk after injecting in them a total sum of $13 billion dollars represents the tragic metaphor of Nigeria.
Rape and dumped by every Minister in every administration, the two companies are again entrusted to another one.
Deliberately superlatively designed and built to 93% completion by the Russains at that time to produce liquid steel for Nigeria’s leap into industrialisation, the story of Ajaokuta and Itakpe is the most apt reason why most people believe that Nigerian may never develope.
But, be that as it may, Arch. Sada has these problems to contend with. And they are rather urgent.
That status of the Interim Management Committee (IMC)
After the revocation of the concession agreement of the two firms from the Indian owned Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited (GINL) in March, 2008, the Federal Government set up an Interim Management Committee (IMC) made up of presumed experienced Nigerians.
The Committee’s life span was to last for a just six months.
From what Sweet Crude has gathered, the IMC seems to have outlived its purpose. Staff of the two companies says that the IMC have dumped its responsibilities and left the day-to-day running of the companies to the traditional management of the two perennially abused firms.
â€œThese men are made up of business men and steady government jobbersâ€, said one of the Staff Union officials who asked for anonymity, â€œSome of them are on other Boards of several Federal parastatals and one is even on the new Presidential Contract Review Committeeâ€, he said. â€œWe hardly see them twice a monthâ€, he said
The new Minister therefore has to take a firm decision on the status of IMC and make recommendations to his boss.
Let Government patronise ASL workshops
With the completion of the Technical Audit of ASCL and NIOMCO by Reprom of Ukraine, ASCL has another chance to put some completed sections of the plant into use. This true based on the order by the acting President in March that N450m be disbursed to ASCL and N200m to NIOMCO for the two companies to start operations.
The ASCL has a Machine tool making workshop that has the capacity to produce all the machine parts used by Nigerian Refineries, Ships, Military Equipments, and Air planes. Successive Ministers have never deemed it proper to lobby government to mandate all its establishments that need this service to patronise ASCL. Instead, all worn-out heavy machine parts are procured abroad for obvious reasons. Arch. Sada would write his name in gold if he is able to influence government to patronise ASCL for this service.
Enough of conferences and Seminars on the Steel Sector
All Arch. Sada need do is to call for the report of the August 2008 report on the 1st Nigerian Steel Summit. Every information, ideas and models for the sector are brilliantly captured in that summit. It was attended by the most prolific experts in the sector within and without the country. He would find, most interesting the investments options available for ASCL and NIOMCO.
Union and Staff matters
The Minister would have realised that the ASCL and NIOMCO staff are fearless negotiators. He must court their confidence by avoiding all the pitfalls of his predecessor, because they have seen them come and go with all their empty promises and treacherous deals that have kept these companies shut for so long.